Tuesday 18 December 2018

Ross's bid for reform committee spot met with anger

Transport Minister Shane Ross. Photo: Fergal Phillips
Transport Minister Shane Ross. Photo: Fergal Phillips
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

A decision by Transport Minister Shane Ross to nominate himself as a member of a cross-party committee on Seanad reform has been described as "extraordinary business".

In a highly unusual move, the minister will take a place on a 26-person working group alongside backbench TDs and senators.

He sent apologies to the first meeting of the group yesterday, where Senator Michael McDowell was elected chairperson.

A source who attended the meeting described the set-up as "chaotic" - with Fine Gael initially attempting to have it postponed before conceding that a vote for chairperson should go ahead.

Concerns

Mr Ross, who was a senator from 1981 until 2011, was reported to be against Mr McDowell's nomination.

But ultimately the minister was not at the meeting to raise any concerns.

In the Seanad, David Norris said it had been a "rocky road" for Mr McDowell to secure the chairmanship.

"I understand it was opposed by former colleagues but I am sure he will do a good job as he is a very effective lawyer," he said.

However, Mr Norris went on to attack the minister, saying it was "extraordinary business".

He said that his attitude towards the Seanad "has, in the past, been marked by a mischievous note".

"As Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport - and whatever you are having yourself - his hands will be pretty much full of his ministerial job," he said.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has established the large working group to consider how best to implement the 2015 Manning Report.

Relevant

It recommended significant changes to the way senators are elected in a bid to make the Upper House more relevant.

Eight places on the group will go to Fine Gael, six to Fianna Fáil and three to Sinn Féin, with the rest being spread among the smaller parties and independents.

They will be asked to finalise the complete text of a Bill to implement the final proposals.

In the 2013 referendum, 51.7pc of voters decided to save the Seanad following a proposal by then Taoiseach Enda Kenny that it should be abolished.

The Government has repeatedly promised to introduce reform in the interim, but progress has been slow.

Irish Independent

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